Where we live makes a big impact on our sense of self and our attitude about how “normal” people live. Traveling to different areas of the country exposes us to samples of cultural differences within just the United States. In New York, affluence is measured in fashion and dollars. In Boston it is about history, who you know and education. In Hawaii, the focus is on hospitality, “Mahalo”, being laid back, and the waves.
In the Mid-West, for some it is about the family farms and agriculture. The area and culture of the city we live in may be a shock to newcomers, and a given to those of us who have never lived elsewhere. It’s our identity; it’s who we are and what we do. Western Washington is rugged and covered in mountains, lakes and forests and near the Puget Sound. These attributes lend themselves to the type of work we do, and even to the recreational activities we pursue.
Forestry, agriculture, fishing, camping, hunting and their supporting commercial industries all contribute to the unique lifestyle we practice in the Northwest, to the envy of many. In the article about place Plaut states that “Boston and San Francisco are in many ways alike: They’re both liberal-leaning, highly educated waterfront towns with an emphasis on eds, meds, and ventured capitol”. In those regards, Seattle is also similar to these cities, but with its own twists shaped by the history, geography and diversity of our unique area.
Some of the stereotypes about our area and our people are that Washingtonians all camp and hike with our flannel shirts and REI gear, we are green and environmentalists, our men wear sandals with socks and the women are not into fashion. We all shop at Whole Foods, and most of what we buy is organic. As a group we’re considered Northwest depressed, Vitamin D deficient, passive-aggressive liberals who hang out at Starbucks and cry into our very expensive coffee. Technology driven, our youth strive to be professional gamers before becoming computer nerds for Microsoft.
And after the vote, we all smoke pot. Factual or not, stereotypes are generally understood by outsiders as true. It takes someone spending time in a different area to sort out truth from the myths. At the beginning of a visit or move somewhere new, the disorientation one feels is related to our prejudice and fears. Most of us, fortunate enough to live in the beautiful Seattle Metro area (who can forget about the rain), can think of no better place to call home.